The Rise And Fall Of Evil Genius Games

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How does a company go from over twenty core staff to just six in the space of a few weeks?

In the summer of 2023, Evil Genius Games appeared to be riding high. They’d made about half a million dollars over two Kickstarter campaigns and had raised $1M from several rich investors in the form of technology companies. The company boasted 25-30 core staff, an official tabletop role-playing game for a movie franchise called Rebel Moon was well under development, and EGG standees and window clings representing characters from the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes could be seen in game stores across America.

By the end of the year, the Rebel Moon game was dead, staff had been asked to work without pay for periods of up to three months, freelancers were struggling to get paid, people were being laid off, and the company's tech company investors seemed to be having cold feet in the face of escalating expenditure and dwindling resources.

In February 2024, news of a rash of sudden resignations from Evil Genius started to spread. Staff announced their departures on social media–in the space of a few days public posts were made by Ivis K. Flanagan (Convention Coordinator), Faith Elisabeth Lilley (Chief Product Officer), Matt Francella (cartographer), BJ Hensley (Executive Producer/Art Director), and Mike Bramnik (Organized Play Coordinator), mainly citing ethical concerns with the leadership at the company. Between December 2023 and February 2024, half of EGG’s workforce either resigned or were laid off.

The news quickly spread across social media, accompanied by wide speculation, but other than non-specific mentions of ‘ethical concerns’ there were few details. I have spoken to ex-staff (who agreed to talk to me on condition of anonymity, citing fears of legal reprisals), current staff, as well as EGG’s owner and CEO. Additionally I have seen a variety of documents–court filings, emails, and other internal material. Together, all this information builds a picture.

When I asked Evil Genius' CEO Dave Scott why he thought people had resigned he suggested that it was all due to internal conflict related to discussions around controversial technologies. He said “It all started with Faith… [Faith] and I had been talking about making her a co-founder… and she said ‘I’ll do it but under the condition that you don’t do Web3… and I said ‘I promise’. And then what happened was the Blockchain Founders Fund investor posted a link on LinkedIn and within minutes of him posting that, Faith resigned. She [resigned] directly in response to that letter and what she told me was, she said ‘My friends are questioning my ethics on this because they’ve got Blockchain in the name.’”

Faith confirmed to me that Scott did offer to make her a co-founder, although it came with a pay deferral until the company would be able to pay her, and that while she was ethically opposed to Web3 technology, it was only one factor in her decision to resign–she told me she felt she was lied to and manipulated, and that she was being asked to mislead other employees regarding the company’s focus and priorities.

I asked him about the other resignees and he ascribed it to a close friendship group acting out of solidarity.

Various ex-staff talked to me at length about their decision and their experiences at the company. Contrary to Scott’s stated perception, the reasons they gave me for the resignations varied. Some expressed concerns with technologies that EGG was planning to use, others talked of wage issues, or of a problematic work environment. Generally the impression I got was that the resignations were the result of accumulated issues rather than precipitated by a single event. Most of them expressed concerns that the narrative being portrayed was that they objected to the company’s technology stance, when the majority of their complaints related to the work environment itself–in fact, specifically, only one person–who left EGG in December–cited the technology issue as being the primary reason for their resignation.

Of the remaining staff, Paul Timm (Project Manager), Chris Ramsley (Lead Developer), Sigfried Trent (Lead Game Designer), Awen Rowan-Nelson (Lead Editor), Eric Nelson (World Builder and Editor, Organized Play Manager) all responded to me. They spoke of ‘start-up culture’, Dave Scott’s interest in Web3 technologies, and some of the interpersonal pressures and trust issues which arose from those things. Some acknowledged the validity of the cited concerns, while others directly refuted them.

Who’s Who? An EGG Primer​

Evil Genius Games was founded in December 2021 by Dave Scott, formerly of Amazon’s web services division, and Marketfish, a ‘data management platform’ which he founded in 2008 and closed in 2013. He has also worked at Twitter and founded or co-founded other companies. When I spoke to him he described himself as a 'serial entrepreneur'.

Evil Genius Games is backed by a group of investors–a mix of venture capitalists and tech firms including:
  • Citta Capital
  • Blockchain Founders Fund
  • Hustle Fund
  • Side Door Ventures
  • Sera Fund
The company raised $1M in funding from these investors in May 2023. To date there have been no further funding rounds on record, although Dave Scott told me he was currently negotiating additional funding.

Evil Genius announced in February 2022 that it was ‘rebooting’ 2002's d20 Modern in the form of a tabletop RPG called Everyday Heroes based on the Dungeons & Dragons 5E ruleset. In May it announced a range of licensed adventure settings based on movie franchises including Pacific Rim, Kong: Skull Island, Highlander, Escape From New York, The Crow, Total Recall, Rambo, and Universal Soldier. A successful Kickstarter that same month raised nearly $400K in funding.

And in 2023, EGG announced a collaboration with Netflix to produce the official tabletop roleplaying game for Zack Snyder’s upcoming Rebel Moon movie franchise.

Where did the money go?​

With nearly $1.5M in funding, EGG had gathered resources which, in a tiny industry like TTRPGs, sounded like a fortune. Yet just three months later the company was unable to pay its staff. I heard from nearly a dozen freelancers, and several staff members, who all told the same story.

The marketing expenditure from Evil Genius Games was, I heard, enormous. Flashy convention appearances, a telephone-based telecanvassing team, technology investments, and rapid staff hires were draining the coffers. A 'retail engagement program' was described to me, the brainchild of CEO Dave Scott, which required an entire team of telephonists to call small hobby stores across the US repeatedly in order to ask them marketing questions with the promise of free promotional material--standees, coasters, window clings, and more-- and which cost the company thousands of dollars. Evil Genius had also hired DigiMantra, a software development company, to work on various tech products, including Dispatch–an organised play platform–and a D&D Beyond-style platform. Money was invested on projects which were suddenly sidelined, and Kickstarter fulfilment was dragging. Investors--venture capitalists and tech companies focusing on blockchains and NFTs--were apparently starting to get cold feet and funding was drying up.

And Rebel Moon wasn't happening. Netflix had summarily cancelled EGG's license to make the tabletop RPG, citing confidentiality breaches. EGG and Netflix were embroiled in a legal battle over the rights to the largely-developed game and the costs incurred in developing it.

In October, scant months after raising a million dollars in venture funding, Evil Genius Games’ CEO Dave Scott told staff that he could not afford to pay them. Other than a select few, between September and December of 2023, the company's staff worked either unpaid, or at reduced rates. Numerous freelancers told me that they struggled to get paid, and I was told by one freelancer that EGG’s Chief Financial Officer, Ravi D. Vaghella, had told them that the company was struggling for cash. I was also told that in December employees were informed that one of EGG’s investors had pulled out, and that they would have to wait longer to get paid.

I asked Scott about this. “We had a tough quarter last quarter, we were going through this Netflix thing, and we were short on funds. It was stressful, we cancelled projects that we thought we were going after. People who were hired in for certain jobs couldn’t do their job because we didn’t have the funding to do it. And so we went through this really incredibly difficult time.”

I was told by several people that Scott offered the staff a choice of lay-offs, reduced pay, or a pay break. You might ask why they agreed to this, and continued to work under such conditions? Well, a new Kickstarter for a ‘Military Heroes’ pair of books was on the horizon. And, of course, there was that big Netflix lawsuit. It was going to pay off. They'd get a big chunk of money from the streaming giant--I was told that Scott was hoping for $3 million in damages. Then everybody would get paid, and the company would rise again to its former glory.

Broken Promises​

Most of Evil Genius’ staff worked on contract. Time and time again I heard a similar story from both staff and freelancers–a tale of promises of full-time employment, health coverage, 401Ks, even equity, none of which ever materialised. It was always on the horizon. One current staff member told me that they had always taken such things with a ‘grain of salt’ and viewed them as aspirations rather than promises, but it was clear that this viewpoint was not universally shared.

The culture at the company demanded a lot from its staff. Most told me that they were contracted for a maximum number of hours per week, and were not permitted to invoice for more than that number. However, I was told by several people that the company made demands on their time which routinely exceeded this limit–people were often asked to work extra or at weekends to meet deadlines, or were urgently contacted by the CEO outside their working hours.

Most of the staff have since left Evil Genius Games, either through resignation or lay-offs and downsizing. After the lawsuit with Netflix was settled, many were paid in January after months without compensation but some staff told me that to this day EGG still owes them pay. Scott told me that, to the contrary, as of January 15th all outstanding pay issues were settled.

One staff member talked of how they offered–in late 2023–to join EGG at half the salary of their current job. This offer was accepted, they said, but they were then told that the company could not pay them until February. That person has since left for reasons separate to the wage issues, but told me they are still owed back-pay.

More than one person told me that despite still being owed pay, after leaving they were offered a lump sum to not disparage the company--and one of them said that their financial situation meant that they were considering it. Another told me that they’d been informed they wouldn't be paid what was owed, but were offered a small stake in the company instead.

I saw an email from Scott to another former staff member in which he reiterated their contractual obligations regarding confidentiality, and assured them that he would take ‘all necessary steps’ to ensure its protection. In that same email, he offered to pay them for a separate non-disparagement agreement, similar to that offered to others. This, again, was somebody with several thousand dollars of pay outstanding.

Of the post-resignation communications I was made privy to, I saw a great deal of acrimony. These interactions were characterised by pay disputes, emotional pressure for abandoning the company, and aggressive efforts to protect the company’s image via confidentiality clauses and offers of non-disparagement payments--I have also been shown letters to multiple staff from EGG's legal representatives threatening action in response to their post-resignation statements.

Rebel Moon: The Saviour?​

Rebel Moon was going to turn this all around. At first, it was a big contract; when that fell through it became a potentially lucrative lawsuit.

According to court documents EGG and Netflix signed a license in February 2023 for roleplaying game products. They paid a nominal $7,500 advance against royalties and went to work on a ‘world bible’ co-written by Eric Nelson and Awen Rowan Nelson--a bible that EGG’s filing claims provided substantial elements of the movie franchise. But in May, just three months later, Netflix terminated the license citing confidentiality breaches which allegedly took place during a presentation entitled Sneak Peek into the Rebel Moon TTRPG [i.e., tabletop roleplaying game] at the GAMA trade show in April, and offered Evil Genius the sum of $50,000 for the work already completed. In September, EGG filed a lawsuit against Netflix for breach of contract, along with a PR campaign designed to garner public support.

On November 1st, Netflix filed their answer to the complaint along with a counterclaim. The streaming company denied any claims that EGG’s work had formed a basis for the movie scripts, or that it had approved the release of material at the GAMA presentation. Interestingly, EGG’s initial filing claimed merely that they had “sent the artwork in question to Netflix ahead of the event … and Netflix never voiced any issues whatsoever, thereby approving the artwork”--a claim that on the face of it appears that EGG had interpreted Netflix’s silence as approval.

Netflix further denied that it had ever requested the creation of a world bible–again, EGG’s suit claims that “Defendants requested, expressly or impliedly, that Plaintiff create a comprehensive World Bible”. However, the streaming company did acknowledge that it claimed ownership of the Rebel Moon bible, Player’s Handbook, and Game Master’s Guide, based on the original licensing agreement which included the important provision that Netflix would own all works created by EGG related to or derived from Rebel Moon:

[O]wnership of all works created, conceived, or otherwise produced during the License Term in connection with the License including any adaptations, modifications or derivatives thereof (“Licensor Materials”) shall vest in the Licensor . . . [and] constitute “works made for hire” within the meaning of the US Copyright Act of 1976, as amended, and shall be deemed transferred and assigned to Licensor promptly upon creation without any further action by any Party. Further, Licensee hereby assigns and conveys to Licensor all trademarks, service marks, trade dress, titles, or other rights in and to the Licensed Property Licensee may obtain (or which vest in Licensee under its exercise of the License). If any Licensor Materials are not considered “works made for hire” . . . , Licensee hereby irrevocably assigns all right, title, and interest in such Licensor Materials to Licensor and shall take all steps reasonably necessary to assist Licensor to effectuate such assignment.

Netflix’s counterclaim provides additional details about the original licensing agreement–including the requirement that dissemination of marketing material required ‘multiple stages of approval’ and specific processes. Additionally, the filing alleges that EGG had offered the roleplaying game for pre-sale without Netflix’s authorisation, had included unapproved marketing material on its own website, and even that they publicly played a video clip of ‘one of Evil Genius’s highly confidential working sessions with Mr. Snyder’ in a presentation at the GAMA trade show.

Netflix also offered in evidence that–contrary to EGG’s claims that its work was used as a basis for movie elements–the first two Rebel Moon movies had actually finished production in December 2022, months before the March 2023 licensing agreement with Evil Genius. Indeed, the counterclaim alleges the opposite–that the world bible was a compilation of background details provided confidentially to EGG during a series of meetings with the film’s director, Zack Snyder.
The lawsuit did get settled. In January 2024, the case was dismissed and an unceremonious ‘joint statement’ was published by EGG–”The parties are pleased that they were able to amicably resolve this dispute. Netflix thanks Evil Genius for their hard work and professionalism.” Scott didn't get his $3M, though, nor did he get the rights to the material. The company was able to recover its development costs, which my sources told me amounted to just under half a million dollars, but the Rebel Moon-derived materials they had created had to be destroyed. In December of that year, Rebel Moon was on screens. The tabletop roleplaying game was nowhere to be seen.

At this point people had been leaving the company in a steady trickle for months. Some were let go, others resigned. Scott managed to pay staff in January, following the Netflix settlement. But it wasn't until a month later that the straw came along which finally broke the camel's back.

Technology Ethics​

Internal disagreements about the use of controversial Web3 technologies--AI, blockchain, NFTs--and the involvement of tech companies in EGG's funding structure plagued the company for months. Scott, whose LinkedIn profile read in August 2023 ‘Founder and CEO of a venture-backed startup in the game space. Evil Genius is poised to bring the tabletop gaming industry into the future using modern software development techniques such as Web3, Blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence’ described himself to me as being “really in it for the technology“, and in conversations with various staffers, they made it clear that they felt his priority lay in technological advances in the TTRPG market, rather than the books and boardgames more typical of the industry.

What is Web3 and why is it controversial?
Web3 is associated with technologies such as blockchains, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and cryptocurrencies. These technologies, along with generative artificial intelligence (AI), are controversial for a number of reasons. Critics say that the processing power they use is immense and has an environmental impact; the technologies are unregulated and often enable fraudulent, unethical, or criminal activities; and that they rely on plagiarism and harm artists and other creators.

Some of EGG’s investors are heavily linked to these controversial technologies. Scott has publicly assured people that these companies were not demanding that the company use Web3, blockchain, or AI. I have been told by both past and present staff that those conversations were constantly ongoing–pitch decks (a presentation designed to raise venture capital) were made in order to attract funding by suggesting the potential of Web3 technologies, and Scott experimented with using AI to write marketing material.

Early on in the development of the Everyday Heroes core rulebook, I heard how AI art was initially used to create page borders; after internal pushback this was removed from that book. Additionally an artist was asked to replace a piece after AI artifacts were found in their work.

But later that year, on September 21st, 2023, a team meeting was called to discuss the pros and cons around the use of AI art to illustrate 700 items of gear in an equipment sourcebook. The result of that meeting was extensive pushback, with strong concerns raised regarding a variety of ethical issues with the idea. According to Scott, at the end of that meeting he told staff that the company would not be proceeding with the use of AI art for the book.

It seemed that the issue was settled. However, in December Scott himself authored a ‘white paper’ entitled Powering Evil Genius Games’ Creator Marketplace with Web 3.0. This 5-page document describes plans which include controversial technologies like blockchains, generative AI, and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). The paper outlines that “Blockchain is the fundamental technology behind this marketplace“ and that “Each created item will be associated with a unique non-fungible token (NFT) on a blockchain.” The paper ends by stating that “An INO (Initial NFT Offering) will take place in 2024.”
This document is one which Scott described to me as ‘theoretical’. It first emerged on December 28th–Scott presented it to Jason Terry, Head of Engineering at the company. This paper as originally presented to him had Terry’s name on it, despite being authored by Scott. Terry told me that he made it clear that he wanted no association with that paper, which he regarded as potentially harmful to his career. Due to this issue, plus the fact that he had not yet been paid, he resigned later that day. The paper no longer bears Jason Terry’s name.

Scott’s version of that event is slightly different. He says he went to Terry beforehand and asked him to help write the white paper, and Terry expressed his discomfort, citing ethical issues with Web3 technology. Scott says “I didn’t listen to him and I pushed ahead, and after a couple of days when he realised I was pushing ahead with that white paper, he quit.”

Scott went on to say that in response to that resignation he then called a meeting to discuss blockchain, at which point it was again decided not to use these technologies.

I had to ask Terry to explain some of these technological concepts to me, which he kindly did. He told me how the idea was that if you bought a special item in-game, that item would be represented by an NFT (non-fungible token) and would be unique; the sword you used to kill the dragon would forever be the specific sword used to kill that dragon–and you would be able to sell that specific item.

Aly Madhavji of the Blockchain Founder’s Fund spoke–in his capacity as a ‘founder’ of Evil Genius Games–about TTRPGs and technology in an article on January 30th. The overall goal of the company, he says, is to blend four technologies together–D&D Beyond-like platforms, e-commerce marketplaces, virtual tabletops, and game scheduling… a plan which sounds similar to that of Wizards of the Coast, the market leader and owner of Dungeons & Dragons.

While that article does not mention any of the controversial technology elements discussed earlier, Madhavji also mentions Evil Genius’ data collection strategy, which allows them to offer movie studios targeted fan engagement tools, and how EGG sells customer engagement data. When I asked Dave Scott about this, he pointed me towards EGG’s privacy policy which specifically prohibits such things.

Finally, these issues led to a key resignation at the end of January 2024 in the form of Chief Product Officer Faith Elisabeth Lilley. And it was that key resignation which started a chain of falling dominoes, as over the coming couple of weeks staffer after staffer quit the company. Some posted publicly on social media alluding to various ethical concerns, others left quietly. But when all was done, Evil Genius Games was down to about 6 people from its heyday of nearly thirty the previous summer.

On February 6th, 2024, Scott rushed to put out a Technology Code of Ethics statement promising never to use blockchains or AI, but it was too late. The damage was done. When I spoke to the ex-staff, they told me that there had been no whisper of the Technology Code of Ethics policy prior to that key resignation, and that an emergency meeting had been called to draft it purely in response to the statements being made by various people on social media. Scott himself engaged in a PR campaign on social media and messageboards, putting out the message that a prohibition on Web3 had been planned for some time, and furthermore that EGG’s close relationship with investors like the Blockchain Founder’s Fund was not a concern, and would not influence the company’s policies.

Scott said: “We made the decision not to do AI in October, and then not to do Web3 in December. But apparently, it wasn't enough to allay any concerns. So after the resignations, we brought the team together to discuss. And we felt a public and permanent statement on this issue would be useful. That's why we drafted the code of ethics after the fact.”

I asked Scott why if he had–as he states–repeatedly told staff that the company wouldn’t be using these controversial technologies, they still believed that he intended to do so. He told me that he didn’t know but listed three things which staff had mentioned to him–his LinkedIn bio, the white paper, and a fundraising deck (presentation) which mentioned the possibility of using Web3. Staff told me that they pushed back against the use of these technologies repeatedly, and expressed their discomfort with their use, but with every meeting where it was raised again, every investor presentation or white paper, they felt that they were not being listened to. It’s clear that trust had been eroded to the point where staff members didn’t believe Scott’s assurances.

A Difficult Work Environment​

Of course, not getting paid is more than enough to push somebody away from a company. But in an industry where people want so much to work, where they'll accept low wages and poor conditions, sometimes not getting paid isn't enough–many staff were willing to accept deferred payment because they believed in the company’s goals.

But the people I spoke with also told me about their experiences while working at Evil Genius and, specifically, their relationships with CEO Dave Scott. Each of the following statements was sent to me by an ex-staff member, and is a direct–although anonymous–quote.


  • During a staff meeting Dave called out a female staff member and said he was going to have to “whore her out to investors” to pay the bills. He thought it was funny but most of us were very uncomfortable.
  • Dave has stated to several employees that he prefers to hire women as, “they are easier to train.” and also that folks who want to work in games “are easier to convince to work for less”.
  • When Dave hired he would tell everyone his investors had deep pockets. That there would be options like health insurance, stock options, and 401k. None of those things materialized and instead he often asked people to take pay cuts while demanding they take on unhealthy work loads or do tasks they were uncomfortable with.
  • We were promised healthcare which would be implemented no later than the end of August 2023, and then no later than the end of September 2023. This is important to note because several of his staff left Medicaid or Medicare plans in order to join Evil Genius Games on his promise that he would "take care of them."
  • In lieu of the promised healthcare options, we were offered a monthly healthcare stipend. This was paid one time before the 3-month "pay deferment", was not included in our back pay payments, and has not been reinstated.
  • Consistent misgendering of non-binary employees in meetings and when anyone corrected him, he would get angry and tell them not to correct him.
  • At least 4 employees were personally told that they were the largest financial burden on the company, with pressure applied to take a paycut “for the good of other employees”
  • Dave has a history of asking employees for feedback on his ideas, in group meetings, then when anyone provides feedback, he belittles them for doing so, telling them that their ideas are awful.
  • Multiple of us have been told in private, and in front of the rest of the company, that we are not good at our jobs. This became so endemic that competent professionals have been left wondering whether they actually know how to do their job.
  • Almost nobody got paid for Oct/Nov/Dec until mid January and he made sure that we all knew that if we left, we would be considered traitors and risk not receiving our backpay. During this time he was also spending on conventions and free RPG day etc, rather than pay employees.
  • He repeatedly tried to manipulate me to work more by saying "If this goes on I will have to replace you, and I don't want to do that"
  • In a meeting he told me, "What happened to you? You used to work weekends and at all hours and now you are slacking"
  • When I told Dave that I was struggling with the huge workload and needed help, as I was working up to 15 hour days to try to deliver, he suggested I work weekends to reduce my hours per day. He also followed up by telling another employee that I was bad at my job because it was taking me so long to do things.
  • In a 1:1 Dave told me to completely change my priority tasks to a new project he wanted me to work on, then a week later in a group meeting he called me out as a failure for not delivering on my previous priorities on time, telling me he would have to look for someone else if this carries on.
  • As a professional, with my own ambition to create opportunities in the future for people like the ones I worked with, it breaks my heart the working environment I saw people subjected to.
  • In one of the staff meetings when he finally said we’d be getting some of our back pay he laughed and thanked the team for letting him borrow our money. Which at one time he had said would be paid back with interest. No interest was received.
  • He would have us hire artists and then continually pause and unpause their progress to put off the bill coming due.
  • He reached out for con volunteers and when a woman applied told her he didn't have room for her because she was female.
  • He made the entire staff stay in a meeting no one could leave until each had gone to DriveThruRPG and given his books ratings. When some people made objections to the morality of this they were told it was a requirement of the job.
  • Dave is a fan of sexist properties and tropes, his staff frequently tried to catch things before they were public, but you have to look no further than the Manipulator class in the core book to see how it still leaked thru.
  • Threatening people's jobs by contacting other "employees" and insinuating it was their job to get them in line before he had to fire them.

In my conversations with ex-staff members, they described verbally problematic interactions with the CEO in which staff were told that they were failures or incompetent, where transgender team members were misgendered, and statements that women were preferable hires because they were easier to manipulate. I put these to Scott who flatly denied them. I asked again, for clarity, and he responded “It didn’t happen… All those things, they sound ridiculous to me, I don’t even know what’s going on. And I’m offended.” He also spoke of his work at Amazon’s DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] efforts.

There were a few other events I was told about. Another ex-staff member told me that Scott had told them that friendship on social media was a condition of employment. And during one recent meeting, a slideshow was played which listed some ex-staff as ‘Regretted Attrition’ and ‘Unregretted Attrition’. When I asked Scott about this presentation he replied that this was a technical term referring to those whose departure harms the company, as opposed to those which don’t. A quick web search tells me that there is some truth to that, although I found a few different definitions. However, those present told me that they were left feeling extremely uncomfortable.

During my research into Evil Genius Games, I was also furnished with statements from six separate individuals who worked with Dave Scott at Amazon or at Marketfish. While these individuals wished to remain anonymous, all spoke of negative experiences, mainly related to management styles. These statements were not things that I sought out–they were sent to me when those people learned that this article was being worked on. One person said “My experience with Dave Scott was nothing less than traumatizing which required therapy. It was a horrifying experience that left me questioning my skills, abilities, gifting, super powers, acumen, and career direction. He left many of us at AWS in a wake of theoretical vision vomit that he had no skills or capacity to ideate, plan, implement or lead.”

In contrast to these reports, I heard from more than one person at Evil Genius about how Scott covered staff’s emergency expenses–such as medical bills or rent–out of his own pocket during the pay furlough. Some of the remaining staff spoke of a ‘family’ environment, and Scott himself spoke of his pride at heading up a diversity team while at Amazon. At times it seemed I was hearing about two different people, and it seemed hard to reconcile such disparate reports. But one thing came through clearly—Scott’s world of venture fundraising and corporate marketing often clashed harshly with the realities of running a small tabletop gaming company, and the way he responded to conflict and criticism often exacerbated rather than defused tensions.

Whimsical Decisions​

The picture being described to me was one where an impulsive CEO hampered the efforts of his qualified staff to do the jobs they were hired to do. The advice of expert hires was ignored, ethical concerns expressed about Web3 technologies failed to stop the topic occurring again and again, and people weren't given the tools to do their jobs fully.

From the failed 'retail engagement program' which cost the company thousands of dollars--and there are still standees languishing in warehouses--to large, flashy convention appearances, staff told me they felt that major decisions were made on a whim. The company's focus would change, with weeks of hard work being sidelined in favour of a new idea, leaving staff feeling dispirited and unmotivated.

I heard about an organised play program which was suddenly gutted--the reward points which volunteers earned for promoting EGG's games at conventions suddenly being made worthless. The person who worked hard on that reward structure no longer works at the company, telling me that not only did they feel sidelined after being invested in that project, but also uncomfortable at the idea of using volunteer labour with no apparent compensation.

And I was told of an attempt to purchase Warhorn, a game scheduling platform--while being unable to pay staff--which the latter company pulled out of at the last minute when Scott attempted to insert additional post-purchase performance prerequisites for payment into the contract.

The Future​

It's hard to tell what EGG's future looks like. Many of the core staff are gone. It sounds--at least from the outside--like investors are becoming harder to attract. The big movie franchise license is no more. Some ex-staff claim they are still owed outstanding back-pay.

According to Dave Scott, the company’s financial woes are now behind it, and the Netflix lawsuit is now a thing of the past. The staff roster has been cut down to a lean 6 people, and future production schedules have been dialled down to a more realistic level. Promises have been publicly made not to use AI or blockchains. There’s a crowdfunder still on the slate for the Military Heroes sourcebooks, and Everyday Arcana, an urban-fantasy setting, is in the works. Scott says he is currently in the process of another fundraising round.

But what happened? The picture emerges of an ambitious and charismatic salesman enthused by the promises of new technologies, full of promises and ideas, quick to spend money on new projects, but failing to provide the leadership to deliver on them or the consistency to stick with them. This, combined with interpersonal problems, difficulties accepting advice or contradiction, and assurances on multiple issues which failed to bear fruit led–in the words of one current staff member–to “people feeling gaslit and deceived”.

When I approached them the remaining staff at EGG largely–but not universally–played down cultural problems at the company, ascribing any tensions to stress and growing pains. One indicated that they had never had any issues–culturally or ethically–at Evil Genius, and another described it as typical of tech company start-up culture. Some spoke of a feeling of betrayal with the tenor of the very public discourse that arose in the wake of the resignations. Only one current staff member directly acknowledged the issues, expressing awareness of eroded trust, dysfunction, and poor management and interpersonal skills which made people feel “unappreciated and overworked” and “abused and mistreated”, although most did accept that communication issues and poor conflict resolution played a role.

Perhaps this is a turning point for the company. I don’t know the CEO well enough to guess at whether recent events might have a long-term positive effect on EGG’s work culture, or whether he even considers the issues raised to be justified–some of the acrimonious private correspondence I have been privy to suggests not. Certainly all the public commentary to come officially from Evil Genius in the past week or two has framed things simply as a misunderstanding of the company’s stance on AI and blockchain, and has not addressed the work culture or interpersonal issues.

The company posted a ‘Letter to the Community’ on February 11th (the day after my conversation with Scott) which mentions some of the issues raised during our conversation, although it focuses purely on the technology aspect again.

Time will tell as Evil Genius moves into 2024 with a smaller team and scaled-down ambitions.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS



Update (Feb 21st 2024)--Dave Scott has posted an Open Letter to the TTRPG Community. This is the same letter sent out to staff and volunteers on February 18th, with a few edits including removing various names.
 
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Dias Ex Machina

Publisher / Game Designer
I can relate. I can only imagine where our company would be if we had the amount of money and backing that EGG had going for them. But we're still here. The struggle continues.
There are two ways for us to succeed. Grassroots and perseverance and big-pocket investors. The issue with the latter we are seeing in REAL TIME. The issue with the former is that it requires patience. Ten years, this was a part-time job until the 2018 UM5 KS blew up. When Affinity also did well, I knew for at least a short time, I could enjoy my dreams.
 

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It does, in a way, but it also preys on a kind of collector mentality. "Oh, I could have a certificate proving I have the sword wielded by Sir Robilar when he went into Zagyg's dungeon and foolishly freed Old Iuz? Shiny!" It's like Knights of the Dinner Table meet Lucy Van Pelt - when you have to have some special game element fanboys will fawn over but make sure it's officially notarized.
I... I would never have thought of that. Holy crap.

I mean, it's nonsensical, but brilliant. I'll bet a few electrum pieces that there are players out there who would stick to a mundane, standard weapon if they had such a certificate saying it was the same "normal sword" used by by E. Gary Arneson at BigCon IX. Or the in-game browncoat worn by Malcolm Reynolds as played by Nathan Fillion at MediaConExtravaganza, or the wineskin casually mentioned once by Amelia VoiceActress on that one episode of Pitiful Role.


It's silly, but by gum, I can see it making money.
 

Akodoken

Explorer
There is a lot to process here. Ultimately, I hope those who are still owed get what they deserve and find a better work environment. No one deserves that kind of treatment.

I think my Everyday Heroes collection is complete, no need to give EGG more of my money. I hope the creatives are proud of the work they did. Except for a few blemishes (like the aforementioned Manipulator), the game is really good and the plethora of content and cinematic adventures will provide years of enjoyment.
 



ngenius

Adventurer
Very well researched write-up and written in a clear voice.

However, it could have waited till after Valentine's Day, before the revelations to the community took away any hint of love left for Evil Genius Games.
 


ngenius

Adventurer
This is it. I remember being absolutely shocked at the size and sophistication of the EDH booth at GenCon. Out of nowhere they managed to secure a very impressive slot with lots of ad buys and all those eye-catching action movie licenses. Matches just what Morrus' report says about a massive (if not unsustainable) advertising spend.

Ironically, a very similar thing happened with Andrews McMeel immediately before they shuttered their RPG division. For obvious related-content reasons, we were paying close attention to the Flames of Freedom ad spend (wall to wall banners at GenCon). Reading the tea leaves: I think they came out the door hard with a massive marketing budget for the game, it underperformed expectations, and corporate decided to close up shop rather than salvage it.



I'll DM you 🙂
Is Flames of Freedom a dead game now? I really liked how it presented the American Revolutionary period with a dash of horror all sitting atop the grim Zweihander engine.
 

Flagbearer Games

5e Publisher
Is Flames of Freedom a dead game now? I really liked how it presented the American Revolutionary period with a dash of horror all sitting atop the grim Zweihander engine.

I'm intentionally keeping a bit of distance, partially out of professional courtesy, and also because I don't want to accidentally cross-pollinate our material with any of their concepts. But my understanding is that the content lead, Richard Iorio (the creator of Colonial Gothic) has taken a step back from Flames of Freedom and started making Colonial Gothic content again.

He just published a new Colonial Gothic supplement, Turncoats, a few months ago. Again, I haven't read it, but I am an admirer of his previous work and am sure it's worth checking out!
 


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